If current Kansas COVID-19 trends continue, Gov. Laura Kelly would consider moving the state back to Phase 2 of its recommended reopening plan.
Kelly announced the possibility of taking a step backward in "Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas" during a news conference Monday afternoon at the Statehouse.
Kelly said she plans to keep an eye on the numbers this week and will make a determination early next week about whether to issue an executive order that would again limit mass gatherings to no more than 15 people and close most entertainment venues, swimming pools, and bars and nightclubs.
"I have the unfortunate task of once again announcing that our numbers are at an all-time high," she said.
On Monday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 26,172 positive COVID-19 cases in the state. Of those cases, 1,644 have resulted in hospitalizations, and 335 Kansans have died from the virus.
"That’s 1,063 new cases and nine more deaths since Friday," Kelly said.
The state has also had 325 coronavirus outbreaks, 131 of which remain active. Many of those clusters are linked to mass gatherings, long-term care facilities and private businesses, according to KDHE.
Kelly said the rates of positivity are especially concerning in and around Kansas cities. She pointed to the Kansas City metro area and the Wichita area as places that continue to report record-breaking numbers.
"If we continue this trajectory, I will have no other choice than to recommend that we move back to Phase 2," Kelly said. "I do not want to go backwards. We can and we must do better."
KDHE is also reporting the average age of those who have tested positive for the coronavirus is now 37, indicating younger people are contracting the virus more often than their older counterparts.
Only two counties — Rawlins County, in northwest Kansas, and Wallace County, on the state’s western border — have yet to report a positive case.
Kelly attributes the continued rise in COVID-19 cases to mass gatherings and inconsistent use of face masks across the state.
"I think the fact that we don’t have any statewide mask order has been a problem," Kelly said. "It makes it very difficult, quite honestly, for local officials. ... I’m glad to take those unpopular actions and just get it done, because I also happen to know that most Kansans want a mask mandate. Most Kansans want others to be wearing masks."
Kelly hopes counties that have opted not to adopt a mask mandate will reconsider, and she said actions taken by Kansas residents over the next few weeks are likely to affect the viability of schools reopening.